The meaning of community

December 5, 2011
Gun Jakobsson
Gun Jakobsson, principal of Vasa School, and Grade 9 students in textile studies.

A big beginning for the partnership

Finland and Alberta know they are doing well in education. But why is this? In trying to pinpoint factors leading to success, we sometimes get lost. We need to look at success elsewhere, for “home blindness” is an impediment in Finland and Canada.

Recognizing good practices elsewhere can improve an educational system. But in the Finland–Alberta project, we want to go beyond simply sharing information to actually improving education. We are emboldened to broaden the focus to cut through school culture, problem areas and areas where we are not doing well. We are looking for change that matters for students.

After visits to Alberta and Finland, participants have undertaken more hands-on activities to improve student learning. First, Finnish principals were involved in activities, and now we exchange information with teachers and students. During a seminar in September, Finnish teachers brainstormed ideas about networking between schools. And in October, representatives of the students’ councils gathered in Finland to discuss community in secondary schools. This is a field where Finnish and Canadian school cultures are clearly different and where we can benefit from an exchange of ideas and experiences.

Sharing ideas about what community means is proving to be rich terrain, and the findings will help us with the bigger challenge—rethinking the concepts of school and education. We know we are good when it comes to theoretical knowledge, but we need to improve our practical and social skills. We need to do more to include new practices and new pedagogy. Human consciousness and compassion must be included in school life to build better lives for our young students.

What will the partnership mean to our schools? We do not know yet but our expectations are high. As one Finnish principal observed: It’s like a Christmas present not yet unwrapped.

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Gun Jakobsson is the principal of Vasa School, in Finland.